RPM, Volume 13, Number 15, April 10 to April 16, 2011

The Sovereignty of God in Prayer

By John Reisinger

Chapter One

Sovereignty and Prayer Defined

"Mr. Reisinger, if God has ordained all things that come to pass, then why should we bother to pray?"

This is invariably the first response from someone who either flat out rejects the truth of God's sovereignty or honestly sees it in Scripture but is having difficulty relating sovereignty to prayer. I suspect that every sincere Christian has, at one time or another, struggled with the relationship between the sovereignty of God and prayer. I am also quite positive that every person who has been confronted with the biblical fact of God's absolute sovereignty has wrestled with this question.

First of all, we must see that the apparent contradiction usually arises from one of the following sources:

(1) The person has a bad theology of either sovereignty or prayer. It is impossible to reconcile a biblical view of sovereignty to an unbiblical view of prayer, or vice versa. The doctrines of the Bible will dovetail together in harmony only when they are all truly biblical. Unfortunately, our generation has a very bad understanding of the theology of both sovereignty and prayer. This means that we are often trying to reconcile the biblical doctrine of God's sovereignty to a man-centered doctrine of prayer. In reality, we are attempting to reconcile truth and error, which is impossible. No one will ever grasp the true relationship between God's sovereign decrees and the absolute necessity of prayer until they see that the popular view of prayer preached today is totally unscriptural.

Actually, we are dealing with the same problem here that we face when trying to reconcile the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. No one will ever see the truth of God's absolute sovereignty until he sees that the mighty "free will of man" is a myth. It is easy to see why Christians in this generation have such a problem with reconciling sovereignty to prayer. They do not really understand either truth when they are stated in biblical terms. The modern-day Christian begins all of his doctrines with an unquestioning confidence in the free will of man. The Bible always begins everything with God and His sovereign purposes.

(2)The second problem is often that the person who rejects God's sovereignty on the grounds that it contradicts the need to pray has never heard "the whole counsel of God." He invariably has a theology built on cute little clich�s like "Prayer Changes Things" or "It is no longer the sin question but the Son question." Trying to discuss the Word of God with people like that is an exercise in futility. In my last pastorate one of the most "spiritual" men was also one of the most dogmatic. Of course, he believed and boasted that his only authority was the Word of God, even though he would not sit down and discuss the Scriptures themselves. No matter what the Holy Ghost wrote in the Book, this man would respond with a cliché. He knew a lot about the e Bible but very little of the true message of the Bible. Although he boasted that he had no "system of theology," he was unbelievably consistent, predictable, and inflexible in his beliefs. His clichés dictated his response to every question and subject. The man's clichés and system were more authoritative than verses of Scripture.

The real question that we must answer is this: "Is prayer a necessary means of reaching a God-ordained end; or is man, by using believing prayer, the shaper and planner of our world and its events?" At first sight that may sound like an oversimplification, but it is not. That is really the bottom line.

First of all, let us be certain that we know what we are saying, and what we are not saying, when we talk about the sovereignty of God and prayer. Are we suggesting that the wall plaque saying "Prayer Changes Things" is totally wrong? Not at all. We are saying that the plaque does not tell the whole story. The plaque is a clich� that contains a half-truth. However, we must remember that a half-truth that stands for a whole truth is a no-truth that soon becomes anti-truth. That little plaque sets forth one-half of a very precious truth, but when it is allowed to stand for the whole truth it creates some very bad theology, and bad theology will always be followed by bad experience.

Does that plaque mean that a six-foot-tall girl can change her height to five feet, four inches, by sincere prayer? Does the word "things" in "Prayer Changes Things" include my height or the color of my eyes? Does the theology of "Prayer Changes Thing s," when combined with the power of my "free will," enable me to prove Jesus was wrong in Matthew 6:27 about "adding an inch" to our height? Can a black man change his skin to yellow or a white man change his skin to red by fervent, believing prayer? Such a view of prayer is nonsense and contrary to the Word of God, and yet thousands of sincere Christians not only believe it but they also send millions of dollars to the money mongers who build their whole ministry (dare we use the word?) on that very doctrine of prayer.

We must also emphasize that "Prayer Changes Things" does not mean that prayer changes either God or His plans and purposes! Unfortunately, that is what many people unconsciously (and some very consciously) think the plaque is saying. Any concept of prayer that allows me to persuade God to change His mind is a most unbiblical and extremely dangerous doctrine of prayer. Who in his right mind would even want God Almighty to change His mind, let alone actually try to get Him to do so by his "believing prayer?"

If God changes his mind in any sense whatsoever, it must be either a change for the better or a change for the worse. If He could change for the better, then He was not perfect before He changed. If He could change for the worse, then He would be less than perfect after He changed. God alone can say, "I, the Lord, change not." The hymn writers have said it well:

There is no shadow of turning with thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not:
As Thou hast been - Thou forever will be.

Before the hills in order stood, Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God, To endless years the same.

We could make another plaque that says "Prayer Changes People" that would be just as half-correct as the first plaque. Sometimes prayer changes us and makes us willing to accept the very things that we have been asking God to change! Isn't that exactly what happened to Paul on one occasion (II Cor. 12:7-10)? However, that is only half of the story. We will go into this aspect of prayer more fully a little later.

John Calvin said that prayer is digging up the treasures that God has already prepared for us. Prayer, as we shall see, really does not originate in us or in our so-called free will. Effectual prayer is the ordained means that God uses to accomplish His ordained purposes. The true motivation for prayer comes from the Holy Spirit of God.

Let me lay down several clear biblical truths that we dare not question or violate in any discussion about prayer and the sovereignty of God. One: We are positive that God has commanded us to pray, and, Two: He has promised to hear and answer our prayers.

If we do not pray, then we are in deliberate disobedience to God. We are told that "men ought always to pray" (Luke 18:1), and that we are to "pray without ceasing" (I Thess. 5:16). Paul's epistles are filled with his fervent petitions to God on behalf of the people to whom he is writing. If we have a doctrine of sovereignty that allows us to either deny or neglect the duty of consistent prayer, then our doctrine of sovereignty is wrong. If our prayer life does not see specific answers, then we ought to seriously question our relationship with God. James says, "The prayer of a righteous man availeth much," and no doctrine of prayer is biblical that contradicts that truth either theologically or experimentally. The truth that God commands, hears, and answers prayer is stamped on nearly every page of the Bible, and any doctrine of sovereignty that denies this truth is denying the clear teaching of Scripture. vHowever, many of the texts of Scripture used by modern-day teachers of prayer are taken far out of context. Let me mention two such texts:

This is the confidence that we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us -whatever we ask- we know that we have what we have asked of him (I John 5:14-15).
Is that promise for us today? Absolutely. Does it mean exactly what it says? Absolutely. Does that mean that I can get anything I want from God if I ask in faith? Is John saying that I can "Name It and Claim It"? If you believe that, I am sure that you will soon either deny your faith or refuse to face the real world in which you live. If you wholeheartedly believe that doctrine and sincerely and consistently put it into practice, you will probably wind up in a mental institution.

This text does not say that I can ask anything that I want and believe it is covered in the blanket promise of verse 15. True, the verse says, "whatever we ask," but the previous verse says, "anything according to his will." I must see that the promise concerns everything, without a single exception, that is asked "according to HIS will." The promise does not begin with my wants or my will but with God's sovereign purpose and glory. It presupposes that my mind and heart are so filled with God's thoughts and a desire to obey His will, that my first concern in praying is asking for grace to do His will. It means I am studying God's Word and praying for Him to show me His will, instead of trying to impose my will on Him regardless of whether it fits into His plans or not. The text is clear-clear, that is, to everyone except a cliché artist and others.

Compare this text in I John with another text in the Book of James and the truth becomes even more pronounced. How do the following verses from James fit into your theology of prayer?

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God (Jam. 4:1-2).
These verses state two things that concern our subject. First, the source of most of the frustration and many of the broken relationships in our lives is the desire of our flesh to use other people to get what we want. Secondly, such trouble is a dire ct result of our NOT praying-"ye have not BECAUSE ye ask not." We will push, pull, connive, cajole, threaten, pout, shout, and do a hundred other things to get our own way for the simple reason that we will not trust God in believing prayer for what He sees we need. We will kill relationships, betray confidences, and destroy anything or anybody that hinders us from getting our own way. Wrong desires and expectations warring inside of us are the exact opposite of confident prayer that is seeking to know and to do God's will. "Ye have not because ye ask not" can be written across every futile day of frustration or depression that we experience in life. "You are frustrated and immersed in wars because you do not pray" should be put on a plaque and hung on the wall of our minds. It would remind us that we are trying to put ourselves in the place of God. Such an attitude is at the bottom of every single one of our problems.

The next verse in James 4 is really devastating. When all of the efforts of our flesh fail to get us what we want, then we turn to God in what we wrongly call "prayer" and literally try to use Him to get what we could not get with our pushing, pulling, pouting, etc. Notice how clearly James sets this forth:

When you do ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures (Jam. 4:3).
Wow, what a blow that is to the modern doctrine of prayer! Do you realize what James is saying? He is saying that we often hide a selfish, greedy motive under the pretense of prayer. He is accusing us of trying to use God for our own ends, and then daring to call it prayer. I have seen church leaders destroy whole congregations just to hold onto their position of authority, all the while claiming that they were "led by the Holy Spirit after much earnest prayer." Pure rubbish! Isn't it amazing that the Holy Spirit of truth and peace gets blamed for so much of the bitterness and division that was done in the name of love "after much prayer"?

It is obvious that God does not view prayer the same way that many people do today. I wonder if the religious hucksters who are getting rich by peddling a doctrine of prayer that tries to use God to make us healthy and wealthy realize how neatly they f it into a warning given by the prophet Hosea:

And they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled on their beds (Hos. 7:14).
The prophet is mocking Israel's supposed prayer. What they called prayer, God called "howling on your beds." They were pretending to be crying out to God, but in reality they were whimpering like whipped puppies. How often are our prayers nothing but whimpering against God's sovereign providence? We are demanding from God what we want, instead of submitting to Him and earnestly seeking His grace to trust Him even when we do not understand.

My whole point is this: It is impossible to reconcile the truth of God's absolute sovereignty to a doctrine of prayer that is in reality nothing but "howling on your beds." Actually, the false doctrine of prayer so prevalent today is nothing less than an attempt to dethrone God and His decrees. This makes Him to be man's servant, thereby allowing man's own fleshly desires to use the mechanics of prayer to shape and control all of his own destiny. With such a view so widespread, it is little wonder there is such confusion in both theology and personal experience in twentieth century Christendom. The worst part of this tragic situation is that the Bible gets blamed for the problem because of the gross misinterpretation of texts like I John 5:14-5.

We must ask three questions of our hearts before we use this text as a "blanket promise."

1. Is it my earnest desire to do the will of God (John 17:7)? To pray for anything without this desire in our hearts is a waste of time.

2. Am I seeking God's wisdom in His Word in order to discover His will for me in all of my life? Again, prayer for "what I want" with willful ignorance of what God wants cannot be called prayer. v3. Can I honestly pray in the same attitude as my blessed Lord when He said, "Nevertheless, not My will, but Thy will be done?" Am I greater than my Master when I pray?

If we are either unwilling or unable to answer these questions correctly, then we are probably trying to use God just to help us get our own way. We are so determined to force our will upon other people that we will even try to employ God's power to do it. Our selfish nature wants our personal needs satisfied at any cost, whether it fits into God's purposes and plans or not. When our personal "happiness" is our only goal, then our concept of both God and prayer becomes terribly distorted. We simply must understand that "whatsoever we ask" must be circumscribed with "according to His will" in our doctrine of prayer. I John 5:14-15 and James 4:3 are two sides of the same coin and neither of them can be ignored or denied.

I am sure I need not remind you that our prayer life is one of the clearest barometers of our present spiritual state. It is much easier to preach and write books about prayer than it is to actually pray. There is no discipline in the Christian life over which I have lamented in tears of repentance as much as a cold heart in prayer. Sam Storms, in the introduction to his excellent book on prayer, describes my own "raincoat" experience. I cannot recommend this book too highly:

My reason for writing this book differs considerably from what one might expect. I was motivated largely by guilt. My prayer life simply was not what it should have been. I knew that as far as Scripture is concerned, prayer is a non-negotiable. Yet I had come to treat prayer like a raincoat, hanging in the closet ready for use for the weather demanded, but hardly something to wear every day. Like my raincoat, prayer seemed unnecessary as long as the sun was shining. I had fallen into the snare of complacency, thinking that since my life was relatively free from discomfort and tragedy prayer could take a back seat. 1
The second text we want to look at that is probably the most badly misused of all texts. Every book or sermon about prayer will use, or misuse, this text. Notice carefully exactly what it says:
. . .Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you (John 16:23).
This text is used to prove that Christ has given us a book of blank checks that are already signed by Him. We need only fill in the blank check with whatever we want. We are guaranteed anything we want if we only have enough faith. We immediately see that the emphasis is not on God's will but on our wants. All that is necessary for us to get whatever we desire is to believe that we have it, and it is ours. All we need to do is pray in the "name of Jesus." In such a view the name of Jesus becomes a magic word that opens heaven in the same way as the famous words "Open, Sesame" opened the mountain in Arabian Nights. Praying in Jesus' name involves a lot more than just tacking His name onto the end of our prayers. Why do we not pray in our own name or in the name of the church where we have our membership? We pray in Jesus' name alone to acknowledge that we have no claim or merit before God, but we still dare to ask because we are trusting the merits and promises of Christ.

I remember attending the funeral of a member of the Masonic lodge. The Masons had a part in the service. It was very serious and solemn and, at least to me a bit amusing at times. A friend of mine who had some understanding the gospel was standing in front of me at the grave. He and I had discussed the fact that many, not all, Masons believe that they are going to heaven because of their Lodge membership. When the Masonic official commended "our dear brother into Thy hands in the name of the Mason ic Lodge," I whispered to my friend, "But they do not have an account in heaven."

The only name that can be used on a check is the name authorized by the person that made the deposits and owns the account. Our blessed Lord alone has earned the merits and grace upon which we can draw. It is true that He has given us permission to us e His name, but not for the purpose of satisfying our own pleasure, irrespective of His glory and purpose.

Let me illustrate what I think it means to pray "in Jesus' name" and meet the conditions of John 16:23. Suppose I went down to a local bar in your town and asked for a bottle of whiskey. I then said, "I have no money to pay for this, but a friend of mine said I could charge it in his name and he would pay the tab the next time he came in." When the bartender asked for my friend's name, I would give him your name. Assuming the bartender knew you and knew that you were a Christian, he would say, "Mister, you are a liar. That person would not be caught dead in this place. He never sent you in here and he surely never told you to use his name."

I wonder how many times God could say exactly the same thing to us. How often have we grossly misused the name of Christ and dared to ask for something we wanted without any thought of Christ and His glory? You cannot pray "in Jesus' name" unless you earnestly believe that Christ Himself would ask for that very same thing. John 16:23 is not a blank check that enables me to get anything my selfish heart desires, irrespective of how it affects the cause of Christ and God's purposes for me, just because I add the words "in Jesus' name" to the end of my prayer.

Let me lay down a few things that we have learned so far about the Biblical doctrine of prayer.

1. Prayer never makes God my servant to give me everything I think I must have in order to make me happy. God is not a "heavenly bellhop" who carries my suitcase of selfish desires any place I command.

2. Prayer never allows me to either dictate my will to God or to make God in any way change His mind.

3. God has a fixed plan and His plan is the best plan. God is determined to carry out His plan, and neither our sin nor our "believing" prayers are going to derail or in any way change God's ultimate decrees (Job 23:13).

It is, when properly understood, a matter of unspeakable consolation that God has a plan--for who could honor a God Who had no plan, but who did everything by haphazard? It is a matter of rejoicing that He has one great purpose that extends through all ages, and embraces all things; for then everything falls into its proper place, and has its appropriate bearing on other events. It is a matter of rejoicing that God does execute all His purposes; for as they are all good and wise; is it not desirable that they should be executed. It would be a calamity if a good plan were not executed. Why, then, should men murmur at the purposes or decrees of God. From a sermon on Job 23:13 by C.H. Spurgeon. A wrong view of prayer will quickly lead to despair and unbelief. This is one of the primary reasons for much of the depression and disappointment in the lives of many sincere believers today. This is especially true among those who listen to the so called divine healers on radio and TV. A lady attending a weekly Bible class that I taught was always in a state of depression when she came, but she usually left rejoicing in God's grace. She finally confessed to me that she listened to one healer after another every Sunday. She even admitted that her depression got worse by listening to the TV preachers. She would always wind up doubting her faith in Christ because she did not get healed. She sincerely believed that God wanted her healed and that Christ had provided for her healing. All that was lacking was her faith. I kept urging her to quit listening to the lies that the healers were telling her, but she would not. Both her physical condition and her spiritual condition continued to get worse.

The doctrine of prayer and healing that is preached by healers sounds so loving. The healer seems to be a sympathetic person genuinely interested in our well-being. His God appears to be a most kind and generous God, but in reality the healer, his doc trine, and his god are all very cruel. Healers are not interested in us, they are interested only in our pocketbooks. Many one of them are religious hucksters getting rich off of the pain and misery of other people's sicknesses. I am aware that these are strong statements, but there is no language strong enough to condemn those who knowingly peddle a false hope in the name of Christ as a means of getting rich.

"But John, does not the Bible clearly teach that `the prayer of faith shall heal the sick'?" Let us examine the exact words in James used by every healer, and see how closely these "great men with the gift of healing" follow the truth in the text:

Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well..... (James :14,15).
Exactly what is a sick person to do according to these verses? First, he is to "call the elders of the church." "Elders" is plural and the sick person calls them. The elders (plural) are to come to the sick person and "pray over him." This is a bit different from a man setting up a tent and calling the sick person to come to him. Suppose a sick person was unable to come to the meeting. Suppose he was unconscious and friends appealed on his behalf? Have you ever seen an unconscious man brought into a healing service? Have you ever heard of a healer answering an appeal for help and going to the hospital to heal the sick?

Secondly, the elders are "to pray over him" and anoint him with oil. Now, it is imperative that we notice who is doing the praying. The text says that it is the elders. There is not a single word in this text about the sick person praying and turning his faith loose.

Thirdly, the "prayer of faith" offered by the elders "will make the sick person well." Now, it is crystal clear that the necessary faith to see the healing take place has to be the faith of the people doing the praying, and the text says very explicitly that it is the elders alone who are doing the praying. The hucksters on the TV totally distort this passage and put the entire responsibility for healing on the sick person! According to James, if the sick person is not healed it is because the people praying the "prayer of faith" did not have enough faith. Why do TV healers put all of the blame on the poor sick person? Just watch at the close of any of these TV productions and you will always see and hear the following "heads I win, tails you lose" routine.

First, the miracle man declares how God has called him and given him the gift of healing and this great ministry of healing. He then explains how the power of this gift flows through the him. You must either touch his hand or lay your hand on the TV f or a "point of contact." After assuring the audience of his gift and power from God, the man will pray up an emotional storm and, with great gusto, demand and command that the "devil set this person free from sickness." The following is commanded in a loud voice, "In the mighty name of Jesus I rebuke you, Satan." As hands are waved and shouts are uttered, the man with the great gift of healing who has just "busted Satan on the snout" with the mighty "prayer of faith," turns to the sick person and say s, "Now YOU turn YOUR faith loose and claim your healing."

Now that is really neat. The miracle worker has been boasting about his gift of healing and he has just prayed his mighty prayer of faith, but nothing can happen until the sick man furnishes the faith to make it all work. If everything totally depends on the sick person's faith, why does he need the healer in the first place? The healer has rigged the situation so that it is impossible for him to lose. If a healing takes place, then praise the healer (and the Lord a little bit, too). If the sick person is not healed, then who is to blame? Not the healer, but the poor sick person who was unwilling to believe. What has really happened in this charade? The healer probably has $100 of the sick person's money given during the offering, and the sick person still has his sickness. The healer is off the hook because the sick person would not do his part and believe hard enough. The poor sick person has now added a load of guilt to his physical sickness. He not only still has his sickness, but he now doubts his faith in God. Under such a teaching, you cannot help being 100% convinced that it is all your fault that you are not healed. The man responsible for loading that guilt on your conscience is the charlatan who twisted the Word of God concerning the "prayer of faith."

I am sorry if someone feels that I am being unkind or unloving, but the most cruel and hateful thing you can do to people in pain is to offer them something that God does not offer, and then blame them for not having enough faith to receive it! It is even worse when you are claiming that the power comes through you and then you dump all of the responsibility of experiencing that power onto the sick person. That is both deceitful and cruel.

If you want to see how cruel the TV hucksters are, on a Monday morning just visit an institution that cares for people with cerebral palsy or a similar disease. Try to talk to a person who has spent the entire night searching back through his life to find "that one sin that has not been confessed" which is "blocking his healing." Feel some of the pain as a helpless victim of an incurable infirmity asks, "How can I get the faith I need to be healed?" or "I don't believe God loves me because He will no t heal me." All of a sudden you will have a desire to see the "loving" money mongers on TV horsewhipped and put in prison for inhuman cruelty.

I remember reading a booklet by a noted healer in which he describes praying for a lady in a wheelchair. She heard him on TV and traveled many miles to attend his meeting. She had been "given hope in God's power and willingness to heal" through his many messages. Here is the man's account of what happened:

I put my hand on the lady's head and prayed the prayer of faith. I could feel the power of God flowing through me and fully expected another genuine miracle to take place. When I opened my eyes, I could see the hope written across this dear lady's face and in her eyes. I took her by the hand and ever so gently began to pull her to her feet. She started to move forward and then suddenly stopped. A look of fear came into her eyes and she sank back in her chair in despair and unbelief.

I trust that you who are reading this feel as angry as I did when I first read those words. The worst is yet to come. As I read the next few sentences, I was angry at that man's cruelty:

I slowly let go of her hand. I had done all for her that I possibly could do. I had delivered God's message of healing, I had earnestly prayed the prayer of faith, and I had pleaded with her to only believe, but she would not exercise the necessary faith to be healed. I left very sad even though I knew I had done my best to help.
Can you imagine anyone being so callous and cruel as that? That man pumped up a false hope in the woman, put on his theatrical display of "shackling the power of Satan," dramatically pretending to be "praying in faith," took the women by the hand and t hen totally blamed her for not standing up! He then had the gall to say, "I did all that I could to help her." You and I both know exactly what he did for her. I believe that he also knows down in his heart, but unfortunately he does not care, as long as the money keeps coming in. If you can call that "loving and kind," then you are the one with a heart of stone.

Unfortunately, most Christians are not interested in theology and therefore rarely see the root causes of many problems. Few people understand the basic theology of the healers. It is the "Oh, but he is sincere" attitude that makes it almost impossible to criticize false preachers of any kind. You cannot expose the healing racket without seeing its bad theological foundation. The healers have a wrong view of the atonement of Christ. They believe that Christ suffered the penal consequences for our bodily sicknesses in the same sense that He suffered the penalty for our sins. We may claim physical healing by faith in the same way we claim forgiveness of sins by faith.

Of course, if this theology of the atonement is true, then it would also mean that it is a sin to be sick. Just as it is a heinous sin to reject forgiveness of sins, so it would be a heinous sin to reject healing for your sicknesses. If the awful sin of unbelief is the only thing that keeps lost people from being saved, then the same awful sin of unbelief is the only reason sick people are not healed. The sick are just as "guilty" for being sick and remaining sick, as anyone is guilty for being a sinner and remaining in sin. You are doubly guilty for remaining in either state after you hear the message that there has been a "full payment made by Christ" for your deliverance. If the basic doctrine of the healer is correct, then his conclusions are also correct. However, if his theology is wrong it will play havoc in the lives of many suffering saints. Who said that doctrine, especially the true nature and purpose of the atonement, is not important?

Before we finish with the Book of James, we should also look at what he said about Elijah shutting up heaven and causing a drought. The following verses are most instructive:

Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced crops (Jam. 5:17-8).
Are we to understand that God abdicated all control of the weather and turned it over to Elijah to decide when it should or should not rain? Is God telling you and me that since Elijah was a man like us, we too can control the weather by fervent prayer? What if a Christian farmer is pleading with God for rain to help his crops and, at the same time, a godly evangelist is praying for good weather for a two-week tent meeting? Which would determine God's action?

How would you like to be an Elijah? Imagine that you have shut up heaven and it has not rained for nearly three years. The cattle are nearly all dead for lack of pasture. The chickens are dead because there is no corn. Children are bloated and dying because of malnutrition. And it is all your fault. People would curse you and plead with you to pray for rain. You would be looked upon as a cruel monster who has no feelings. Why would you not pray for rain? Why did Elijah not pray? Did he have a "mean streak" that enjoyed seeing people suffer? The answer is simple. God was the One who instructed Elijah not only what to pray but also when to pray. Read again the story in I Kings 17-18 and you will see that Elijah does indeed command the rain to both stop and start, but he does so only when God specifically instructs him to do it. We must understand that God was teaching a nation a much-needed lesson in repentance, and nobody, including Elijah, was going to make it rain before God had finished giving the lesson.

Imagine a group of sincere sentimentalists calling an all-night prayer meeting to pray for rain. Maybe a guy from Oklahoma told them that a 900-foot Jesus had told him to organize this "army of faith to batter the walls of heaven for rain." You could get as many people to pray as you wanted, and you could plead as long and as hard as was possible, but you would be wasting your breath. Nothing could make it rain until God's purpose in sending the drought in the first place was realized. Elijah is in eed the ordained means that God used, but God was the Master of Ceremonies. The cruelest man in the country would be the tear-jerking TV huckster crying, "God is a good God! He wants to send us rain, but we must have the faith to let Him do it." That man would be literally fighting the very purposes of a sovereign God and actually be hindering the rain from coming.

I had better take time to clearly state that I firmly believe in divine healing. In fact, I believe that all healing is divine. Unless God blesses the medicine or the hands of the surgeon, even an unbelieving surgeon, there is no benefit. I also believe in miraculous healing, which is God directly intervening and healing without the use of any physical means at all. What I do not believe is that I can claim by faith a miraculous healing because Christ has supposedly already purchased and paid for t he healing of every disease.

If you ask me, "What must I do to be saved?" I will point you to Acts 16:31 where Paul said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." If you say, "What must I do be healed?" I must respond, "Ask God for His perfect will to de done, and to give you courage and unwavering faith to trust Him regardless of what He does." I cannot find a text in the Bible that guarantees that you can be healed in the same manner you can be saved from sin.

I repeat, I do indeed believe in divine healing, but I do not believe in divine healers. God performing a miracle by His grace and power, and God giving a man the ability to bestow grace and power on others, are two entirely different things. I deplore the total abuse of Scripture that is necessary for the self appointed healer to practice his deceit. I also lament the misery and despair that he leaves behind.

Ask a "healer" if it is right to add "Nevertheless not my will, but Thy will be done" to the end of a prayer for healing. He believes that is a sinful cop-out simply because he believes it is always God's will for you to be healed of every sickness. A ll you need is the necessary faith. The healer's whole money-making scheme is based on this bad theology. I have buried at least five people who had been "gloriously healed" by big name healers. These people "lost their healing because they did not hold onto it by faith." Show me where that happened to anybody whom Jesus healed!

The health and wealth gospel of the healers is an insult to every hungry or sick believer in Asia, Africa, and the rest of the world. It forces us to believe that people like Fanny Crosby and Joni Erickson were wicked unbelievers who did not have enough faith to receive the healing that Christ had purchased for them. This would mean that these Christians spent their entire lives in unbelief. What nonsense!

If someone reading this is saying, "This guy is really worked up about this," you are right. However, I think every person who loves people and believes the Bible's message of sovereign grace should be just as worked up. Jimmy Baker's sexual sins will not hurt the true gospel nearly as much as the false doctrine that he preached. His sins of the flesh hurt his income and ultimately led to his imprisonment, but his distorted false gospel will destroy the soul of those who believe it. It is time somebody started to emphasize that the immorality of the Bakers and Swaggarts is not nearly as dangerous as the unscriptural message they declare.

Before we continue, let us briefly review the major points we have covered. (1) It is impossible to reconcile two doctrines if one of them is not truly Biblical. Most Christians today have a wrong view of both the sovereignty of God and prayer. It would be most foolish to try to relate the truth of God's sovereignty to the man-centered view of prayer so widely accepted today. (2) Christians are commanded to pray and God has promised to hear and answer our prayers. Any view of the sovereignty of God that does away with the need of prayer or the joy of experiencing real answers to prayer must be biblically wrong (James 4:1-3). (3) That John 16:23 is not a "blank check" that enables us to fill in whatever we want. The promise is governed by the phrase, "in My name." Likewise, the "whatsoever we ask" in I John 5:14-5 is controlled by "according to His will." (4) The divine healers of our day twist James 5:14-15 and blame the sick person if he is not healed.

We will now demonstrate from Scripture some basic principles about prayer as it relates to the sovereignty of God.


1. Reaching God's Ear, by Dr. Samuel Storms, Tyndale House Publishers, p 7.

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

Subscribe to RPM

RPM subscribers receive an email notification each time a new issue is published. Notifications include the title, author, and description of each article in the issue, as well as links directly to the articles. Like RPM itself, subscriptions are free. To subscribe to RPM, please select this link.